MOUNT VERNON — Practice was held on a sunny Tuesday morning for the rapidily approaching Charity Harness Race, slated for Sunday during the Knox County Fair. The annual event will feature WMVO host Adam Taylor, who will be driving for Arms of an Angel; State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, Mental Health of America; News assistant publisher Liz Lutwick, Kno-Ho-Co-Ashland Community Action Agency; health commissioner Dennis Murray, Red Cross of Knox County; and fair board vice president Scott McCann, Hospice of Knox County. The winner will earn $600 from the Knox County Horsemen Association and the Knox County Fair Board, with the money going to benefit their local charity.
“I started doing the celebrity race a couple of years ago, trying to draw public interest into harness racing and also get money out to the charities with [the help] of local community celebrities,” said Danielle Berger, who, along with her husband, Aaron, organize the event. “We are hoping that with the celebrities, it will reach out to other people, draw them in and make them realize that it’s not just a money business ... and it’s not a glamorous job, but it’s something that we all enjoy.”
Berger said harness racing is a fun sport and establishes a camaraderie among horsemen.
During practice, Lutwick and McCann drove with Aaron Berger and the horse Ms. Budda Bing, while Murray drove Stimulus Package.
“The celebrities will be riding just like they are in the practice today. They will be in the two-seated car with a licensed driver,” said Danielle Berger.
Although the licensed driver will actually drive during the race, celebrities have the option to take the reins.
“It’s whatever the celebrities are comfortable with; we just want it to be a positive experience for them,” said Berger.
Lutwick, last year’s champion, will return to defend her title.
“I found the first race really exciting, and I had no idea that I had won until it was all over with. And then [in] May I found out that I had to defend my title, so that’s why I am here again this year. I will be driving ‘Reporting Live’ again,” said Lutwick.
McCann was among those preparing Tuesday for the race.
“I’m racing for Hospice of Knox County; today I made my first practice round, and things went well. I got a little gravel in the teeth, but other than that, things went pretty well,” he said. “I’ve been in an Amish buggy before, but never behind a horse out on a race track.”
Murray was also at the track.
“The horse definitely goes faster than I thought,” he said. “A little bit more difficult than it looks, and I have been told that it is going to go even faster during race day on Sunday.”
And although Murray is a bit uncertain about the race, he has received a lot of support from his staff at the health department, and is happy to be supporting a worthy cause.
“I chose the American Red Cross of Knox County for my charity because of all the good work they do here in the community,” said Murray. “Anytime there are disasters, fires or people lose their homes; they really do need our funding and support.”
The Charity Harness Race will be held on Sunday at the Knox County Fair grounds. It will be a part of the race card, and is slated for around 2 p.m.